Depiction Suggestions

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1 Chapter 23 Women and Addiction The following points for consideration on the portrayal of women and addiction were developed as a resource for entertainment development and production. They are not meant to limit the creative process. Depicting Women and Drugs: Try not to have female characters use drugs gratuitously. Try to avoid implying that using drugs is glamorous, sophisticated, or at any time necessary for business or social activities. Drugs and romance need not be linked. Try not to have characters use drugs as a solution for problems (i.e., stress, shyness, anger, depression, grief). There are many creative ways to show that excessive use of illegal drugs or prescription drugs has negative consequences. Attempt to demonstrate that there are no miraculous recoveries from an addiction. It is a life-long process. Remember that both inpatient and outpatient treatments are frequently expensive and/or often not covered or are only partially covered by insurance. Twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous have proven to be an effective no-cost alternative in the recovery process. Depiction Suggestions Circumstances Particular to Women: Women often turn to drugs or alcohol to: 1. Relieve a sense of powerlessness at work and at home. 2. Subdue emotion so they may maintain proper feminine decorum. 3. Substitute for a lack of familial support. 4. Self-medicate for depression. For physiological reasons, a woman is more likely than a man to get high inadvertently. Doctors are more likely to prescribe mindaltering drugs to women than to men and less likely to recommend counseling or other forms of help. When portraying women who are addicted, try for an ethnic, racial, and class balance. Attempt to acknowledge that certain circumstances exist that are particular to women who have become addicted, such as: 1. The fear of discovery is greater for an addicted woman than an addicted man. She fears ridicule for herself and her family and rejection by her loved ones. Nine out of ten men abandon their addicted partner, while nine Spotlight on Drugs 23.1

2 Spotlight on Drugs out of ten women remain with their addicted partner. 2. They fear separation from their children, either through legal edict or inpatient treatment. 3. Outpatient treatment is frequently inaccessible to women, especially crack-addicted women, because so few services are available and because of inadequate child care provisions in those services which are available. 4. Unlike men who seek treatment, women tend not to have a family support system waiting for them at home. 5. Many women fear violence from their husbands, boyfriends, or partners. 6. Seventy percent of female drug users had been sexually abused by the age of 16. Most of these women had at least one parent who was addicted to drugs or alcohol. 7. Women who abuse drugs and alcohol are at particular risk for sexual assault, unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. 8. Because of the availability of prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal drugs, women are frequently addicted to several substances. They are more likely than men to combine alcohol and prescription drugs. Remember that many women have additional needs when it comes to treatment programs such as access to child care, transportation, medical care, mental health therapy, legal assistance, parental training, basic education, and job training. Traditional treatment programs, originally developed for men, usually do not provide these services. Spotlight on Depiction of Health and Social Issues Proprietary To: Entertainment Industries Council, Inc Reston Parkway, Ste. 415 Reston, VA S. Buena Vista St Burbank, CA Telephone: (703) Fax: (703) Telephone: (818) Fax: (818)

3 Women and Addiction Overview Research has developed incontrovertible evidence that the dynamics of drug and alcohol addiction differ greatly in men and women. Social disapproval is stronger against women who drink and use drugs than it is against drinking or drug-abusing men (see also Chapters 6, Medical Issues for Alcohol, and 7, Myths About Alcohol Clarified). Since the 1980s, the United States has experienced a surge in drug and alcohol use among women. Today we know that when a woman abuses alcohol or other drugs, the risk to her health is much greater than it is for a man. Yet there is not enough prevention, intervention and treatment targeting women. It is still much harder for women. It is still much harder for women to get help. That needs to change. Former First Lady Betty Ford, April 1995 Statistics and Information: More than 5 million women in the United States use drugs. 1 Among 12 to 17 year olds, females surpass males in the use of cigarettes, cocaine, crack, inhalants, and prescription drugs such as stimulants, sedatives, and tranquilizers (for nonmedical purposes). 2 Fact Sheet Of the 15.1 million alcohol-abusing or alcohol-dependent individuals in the United States, more than 4 million (nearly one-third) are women. 3 Women become intoxicated after drinking smaller quantities of alcohol than are needed to produce intoxication in men. Three possible reasons are: 4 1. Women have lower total body water content than men of comparable size. 2. Women produce fewer enzymes that break down alcohol. 3. A woman s monthly hormonal cycle may make her more at risk to the effects of alcohol because of the variations in body fat and water. Women begin their pattern of alcohol abuse at a later age and drink as much as 45 percent less than men; however, women seek treatment at the same age as men and with the same level of symptoms. 5 While adult males drink more than adult females, young males and females consume similar amounts of alcohol. Some surveys show more alcohol consumption among females 12 to 17 years old than males in the same age group. 6 Spotlight on Drugs 23.3

4 Spotlight on Drugs Younger women (aged 18 to 34) report higher rates of drinking-related problems than do older women, yet the incidence of alcohol dependence is greater among middle-aged women (aged 35 to 49). 7 Black women (46 percent) are more likely to abstain from alcohol than white women (34 percent). While equal proportions of black and white women drink heavily, with black women reporting fewer alcohol-related personal and social problems than white women, a greater proportion of black women experience alcoholrelated health problems. 8 Heavy-drinking women and those who abuse cocaine and/or opiates suffer more problems with their periods, sex, and pregnancy. Women alcoholics have more hysterectomies and earlier menopause. Some studies suggest that breast cancer more often strikes women who drink, even moderately, than women who don t. 9 Female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than male alcoholics, and die at least 15 years sooner than women who do not abuse alcohol. 10 Heavy drinking by women has been linked to anxiety and depression, low self-esteem and suicide. 11 Female alcoholics commit suicide 16 times more often than women who are not alcoholics. 12 Pregnant Women and Substance-Exposed Infants: Some children exhibit learning and attention deficits, along with poor motor skills and behavior problems. It is not yet known whether the higher intellectual functions, such as abstract thinking, may have been affected. 13 Many women in need are unable to obtain treatment because of the severe shortage of treatment facilities that will accept either pregnant women or women with children. 14 Heavy or frequent use of alcohol during pregnancy may result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the leading preventable cause of birth defects and mental retardation. Children with FAS suffer growth deficiencies, facial malformations, and mental retardation. Some children who exhibit only one or two of these signs are considered to have Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). 15 Infants exposed to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in utero are more likely to be born prematurely and of low birthweight, and have an increased chance of stunted growth. 16 FAS is estimated to strike between 1 and 3 per 1,000 live births. Among some Native American groups, the rate is as high as 10 per 1,000. For every child born with FAS, 10 more suffer from other alcohol-related problems. 17 Sources: 1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Women and Drug Abuse, 1994, p National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Alcohol Alert, No. 10, PH 290, October NIAAA, Alcohol and Health Research World: Women and Alcohol, Prevalence of DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence, Vol. 18, No. 3, 1994, pp NIAAA, Alcohol Alert, No. 10, PH 290, October NIDA, Women and Drug Abuse, p. 2, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alcohol and Health, Seventh Special Report, January, p. 139, NIDA, Women and Drug Abuse, p. 2, Institute of Medicine, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention, and Treatment: Summary, p. 3, Spotlight on Depiction of Health and Social Issues Proprietary To: Entertainment Industries Council, Inc Reston Parkway, Ste. 415 Reston, VA S. Buena Vista St Burbank, CA Telephone: (703) Fax: (703) Telephone: (818) Fax: (818)

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6 Section III: Sotlight on Tobacco Table of Contents Spotlight on Depiction of Health and Social Issues Table of Contents Section III: Spotlight on Tobacco Chapter 24: Top 10 Motives for Tobacco Depiction Filtering the Smoke Screen Chapter 25: Tobacco Depiction Suggestions Let s Clear the Air Chapter 26: Fact Sheets Addiction and Nicotine Hook Em, Danno Addiction and the Brain Treatment for Addiction Alternatives to Cigarettes Freud Revisited Cigars and Pipes Smokeless Tobacco Natural Cigarettes Bidis and Herbals The Economy of Tobacco Hook, Lie, and Stinker Tobacco Industry Targets Marketing and Product Placement Medical Issues for Tobacco What s Up, Doc? Health Effects Prenatal Concerns Second-Hand Smoke Mind if I Breathe? Societal Impact Personal Impact

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